During a political age in which—officially—“nothing matters,” one big question remains after this past weekend’s episode of Sacha Baron Cohen’s Who Is America?: Can you repeatedly scream the N-word on national television and keep your job in the Georgia House of Representatives? We’re about to find out.
For his segment in episode two of the British comedian’s news-making Showtime series, Spencer, a four-term Georgia state representative, apparently had no problem shouting racial epithets and pulling down his pants at the suggestion that Islamic terrorists believe touching a male behind will “turn” them gay, among other horrifying behavior.
In a post-credits sequence that some viewers may have missed, he mimed cutting off the penises of what he refers to as “sand-n*ggers” and then eating them. “How are you going to rape children and women without a dick?” he asks with fury in his eyes. Suffice it to say all of this goes well beyond even the lawmakers who were “tricked” into advocating a guns-for-toddlers program in the previous week’s episode.
The condemnations from his fellow Georgians have been swift.
“Representative Spencer has disgraced himself and should resign immediately,” Georgia House Speaker David Ralston said in a statement Sunday night. “Georgia is better than this.”
The state’s current governor, Nathan Deal, stopped short of calling for Spencer to vacate his seat, but he did tweet his “disgust” with the “appalling and offensive” language.
Both Republican gubernatorial candidates, who will face each other in a run-off this Tuesday to determine who will oppose Democrat Stacey Abrams in the fall, issued statements denouncing Spencer.
“Rep. Spencer’s words and behavior are hurtful, insensitive, and completely unacceptable. At the very least, he should issue a public apology for this shameful incident,” Brian Kemp, who also removed Spencer from his endorsement list, said.
“Jason Spencer is a disgrace to Georgia and should resign his elected office immediately,” Kemp’s opponent, Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle, tweeted. “While I’m glad he never supported our campaign and actually actively opposed us, I think it speaks to the judgment of our voters that he was overwhelmingly defeated earlier this year.”
And yet, Spencer, who lost his primary election earlier this year and only has five more months in office, has remained determined to serve out the rest of his term.
In a series of text messages to Washington Post writer Steven Zeitchik, Spencer apologized for his behavior but said he has no plans to step down.
Just as he did before the episode aired, Spencer complained that Baron Cohen and his associates “took advantage of my paralyzing fear that my family would be attacked” following alleged death threats he received in 2017 after he proposed legislation that would ban Muslim women from wearing veils—or “masks,” as he calls them.
“As uncomfortable as I was to participate, I agreed to, understanding that these ‘techniques’ were meant to help me and others fend off what I believed was an inevitable attack,” Spencer wrote. “My fears were so heightened at that time, I was not thinking clearly nor could I appreciate what I was agreeing to when I participated in his ‘class.’ I was told I would be filmed as a ‘demonstration video’ to teach others the same skills in Israel.
“I deeply regret the language I used at his request as well as my participation in the ‘class’ in general. If I had not been so distracted by my fears, I never would have agreed to participate in the first place,” Spencer added. “I apologize to my family, friends, and the people of my district for this ridiculously ugly episode.”
“Finally, there are calls for me to resign,” he concluded. “I recently lost my primary election, so I will not be eligible to hold office next term. Therefore, I will finish the remaining five months at my post and vacate my seat."
Unlike the statement he submitted before the episode’s airing, there were no more threats from Spencer to take legal action against the comedian.